A month ago today 12 people set out on foot together to walk 150 miles on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, a medieval pilgrimage route that has seen a modern revival in popularity. We have been back a couple of weeks now, and as most pilgrims discover, the road doesn't end at the destination. We keep walking, into the rest of our lives, which have been altered in some way by our intensive focus on outward travel.
Even though we walked together, each one of us walked our own path, with our own inner questions and conflicts and hopes (with tens of thousands of steps there is a lot of time for things to bubble up, and to settle out). One of my own questions was: "What am I wasting time on in my life, and what is calling to me for my deeper investment?"
As with most people who go to shamans for concrete answers, I didn't get absolute clarity on the road, but I got hints and direction - in quite a literal sense. All along the 500 miles of the Camino there are yellow arrows painted on the ground, on rocks, on buildings - pointing out the often obscure track to keep pilgrims heading toward Santiago. Once in awhile they point in conflicting directions, where the Camino has been rerouted and there are still ghosts of old yellow arrows. It takes constant attention and interpretation, but none of us would get to Santiago without them.
The yellow arrows were not just literal either. The Camino is marked by extraordinary generosity in human form. At the end of our journey, one of our group said it well: "Each of you has been a yellow arrow for me at some point along the way, a sign of how and where I need to go. I think our work now is to become yellow arrows for others."
As I have continued to walk on in my life that remark has stayed with me. Becoming a yellow arrow is a subtle but profound way of leadership; it's anchored in behavior, not pronouncement. It's about being authentic, trustworthy. It is humble, simply pointing the way by its being. St. Francis memorably said, "Always preach the Gospel. If necessary use words."
I will continue to wrestle with what matters most and what matters not enough to bother with, but I've been brought a little closer by those yellow arrow individuals along the way, who stand out by their singular clarity of purpose, or their kindness, or their enthusiasm - any of those myriad ways that humans shine. As with the yellow arrows, I cannot follow them; I can only use them to stay on my path, remembering that they may be watching me for the same.
Being a yellow arrow is never a waste of time.
Author: The Rev. Daniel Simons
Created: July 21, 2009
Worship is the single greatest investment of resources in any church's life, including Trinity Wall Street, and it is the primary lens that focuses our life together. Worship is a language that links us back through generations and yet is newly born in each moment!
This blog focuses more on primal patterns than technique --looking at how we are embodied souls needing to act out our faith. It is a reflecting pool for leaders of other congregations, for members of Trinity seeking to understand the patterns of the liturgy more fully, and for seekers who are aware of or interested in the power of ritual.